The Philadelphia Flyers were one of the worst teams in the league this past month. They have looked like boys among men. There haven’t been many positives about them this month so this article isn’t about the team itself. This article is about one of the most important figures the NHL has ever seen: Gritty.
The NHL struggles with attracting new or casual fans compared to the other leagues. This isn’t because hockey is boring to watch or because there are no exciting players. This is because there are no big personalities in the NHL and they do not market the leagues best players nearly enough.
The NFL, NBA, and MLB all rely heavily on marketing certain players. These are usually the best or most entertaining players that you see all over every form of social media. This method is how these leagues attract so many new fans. Professional sports are a form of entertainment. Big personalities entertain before, during, and after the game.
The NHL does not follow this method. They do about the exact opposite. Their best players are exciting during the games, but the culture of the NHL forces them to be excruciatingly boring before and after. Toronto Maple Leaf players weren’t even allowed to have moustaches during training camp from 2015 to 2018. Carolina’s storm surge celebration was a fun way for them to celebrate after a win but Don Cherry blasted them for having some fun. Can you believe those players? Enjoying the sport and showing some emotion? How dare they.
Do me a favor and pick up your phone. Call or text one of your friends that doesn’t follow the NHL and ask them if they know who Gritty is. There is a very high chance they will know who he is and that is exactly why Gritty is so important. He’s a popular figure that has broken through the culture of the NHL where players have to be so stoic and serious.
Gritty nearly has the same amount of followers on Twitter as some NHL teams. Every tweet he posts has a ridiculous amount of interaction relative to the amount of followers he has. Most of Gritty’s tweets get way more interaction than the NHL’s tweets and the NHL has millions of more followers.
It’s not just about social media though. Gritty is an entry point for new fans because he’s hilarious and unique. He is a big, orange, and deranged-looking muppet that somehow made it onto multiple talk shows. Gritty is everything the NHL was lacking. He’s reaching audiences through this popularity that the NHL has never been able to reach.
Gritty is an absolute icon and honestly, he deserves to be the face of the NHL. He is unironically one of the best things to ever happen to the league and will be the reason many new fans, young and old, will start watching hockey in the future. If you love hockey and want to see the NHL grow then you should love Gritty too.